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Skylanders: Swap Force photo
Skylanders: Swap Force

Impressions: Skylanders: Swap Force (Xbox One and PS4)

Slightly more Pixar-y
Nov 27
// Chris Carter
Skylanders: Swap Force was one of my biggest surprises of the year. After two full iterations in such a short amount of time, I didn't think Vicarious Visions had it in them to make the strongest one yet. But here we are, and...

New releases: Skylanders, Goodbye Deponia, and more

Oct 14 // Hamza CTZ Aziz
Xbox 360: Cabela's African Adventures, Skylanders Swap Force PlayStation 3: The Wolf Among Us, Cabela's African Adventures, Skylanders Swap Force PC: Goodbye Deponia, Cabela's African Adventures, Skylanders Swap Force, Two Brothers, The Stanley Parable: HD Remix PS Vita: Valhalla Knights 3 Wii U: Wipeout: Create & Crash, Skylanders Swap Force Wii: Wipeout: Create & Crash, Cabela's African Adventures, Skylanders Swap Force 3DS: Skylanders Swap Force The Wolf Among Us (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC, Mac) [embed]263556:50919:0[/embed] Valhalla Knights 3 (PS Vita) [embed]262078:50537:0[/embed]
Plus The Wolf Among Us hits PSN
A relatively tame week of releases, with the star being Skylanders: Swap Force. This series just prints money, especially now that you can split and merge toys to create new warriors. How cool is that? The other biggies this...

Review: Skylanders: Swap Force

Oct 14 // Chris Carter
Skylanders: Swap Force (3DS, PS3, PS4,  Wii, Wii U, Xbox One, Xbox 360 [reviewed])Developer: Toys For Bob (PS3, 360) / Vicarious Visions (PS4, Xbox One) / n-Space (3DS)Publisher: ActivisionRelease: October 13, 2013 (PS3, Wii, Wii U, Xbox 360 ) / November 15, 2013 (PS4, Xbox One) / November 2013 (3DS)MSRP: $74.99 (Starter Kit) Once again, Skylanders utilizes the "toy and game" concept, offering up a host of characters to use in-game so long as you own the physical figure. Since Swap Force uses new technology that incorporates figures with multiple pieces, you must buy a new Starter Kit to get the new "Portal of Power" base to beam the toys into the game. Yes it's a bummer, but once you dive into Swap Force you'll quickly forgive the inconvenience. For starters, the series received a huge visual upgrade that puts it on par with many animated theatrical films. While the jump from Spyro's Adventure to Giants wasn't massive enough to turn any heads, Swap Force sports some very high production values in multiple areas of the game, even on a console like the Xbox 360. Not only have old characters been overhauled to bring some more nuance to their animations, but the new characters look fantastic: especially the "Swap Force" members, which I'll get to momentarily. Skylanders also has a stellar voice cast to support said visuals, and pretty much everyone is at the top of their game yet again in Swap Force. Patrick Warburton effortlessly nails the goofy Flynn, and Steve Blum as one half of the anthropomorphic "Hip[po]Bros" is another welcome addition. Famous or not, the rest of the cast is stacked with delightful performances, like a talkative fish who does his best rendition of Steve Buscemi's "total silence" routine from Fargo. I really think at this point after seeing Swap Force in action, Activision could just hire Patrick Warburton and make a pretty entertaining kids show. So what's actually new? Quite a bit, actually. In Giants, the main gimmick involved having to use special "Giant" toys that were larger than most to barge through special barriers. It was highly inoffensive considering that the Starter Pack came with one, and that one Giant was all you really needed to access every bit of content. In Swap Force, many new toys feature detachable legs and upper bodies so that you can mix and match and form your own combinations. I ended up loving this part far more than I thought I would, for multiple reasons. Not only do the new Swap Force toys and in-game models have a ton of detail (Wash Buckler's squid legs are a highlight), but it also allows an unprecedented amount of customization as you search for your favorite playstyle. Immediately, I started experimenting with squid tentacles, snake coils, and chicken feet as I searched for my ideal Skylander, but had a blast the entire time -- especially since each part has its own upgrade path and unique abilities that carry over when you swap them. The key is that the Swap Force brigade isn't solely built around the "switch" gimmick, as a major emphasis has been put on their bottom halves -- which are used to drastically switch up your means of travel. Every Swap Force toy has a new means of getting around, whether that's rocket boots, teleportation, a whirlwind, or wheels -- and they're all a ton of fun. My favorite new character ended up being "Magna Zone," which is the combination of the robotic enforcer of Magna Charge and the fiery rocket legs of Blast Zone. Depending on what leg parts you use new mini-games open up that use completely unique mechanics, like races, flight challenges, Donkey Kong Arcade-esque climbers, 2D platforming sections, and sidescrolling beat-'em-ups. I was pretty surprised at the insane amount of variety the developers packed in, and thankfully, none of it gets stale or overstays its welcome. The core game is just as fun as ever, as it's really easy to just jump in and start blasting or hacking away. Every character still has three base abilities, but nearly all of them have some sort of variation that vastly changes how it operates, like the ability to charge them up into a new attack by holding a button. On higher difficulties Swap Force can put up a decent fight, which is great news for those of you who don't want to just effortlessly make your way through a bunch of playgrounds. Mechanically, quite a bit is new as well in Swap Force, mostly because you finally jump! It sounds absolutely ridiculous, but the first two games did not feature jumping -- instead, players had to use "jump pads" to climb vertically. But given the new-found freedom to leap about, secrets are now more cleverly hidden, new puzzle opportunities arise, and the game just feels better in general as a result. Besides bounding, a concerted effort has been made to make co-op play more fun, which is great news for those of you with kids, or a spouse who enjoys the simplicity of the series. Loot and food are now shared (preventing one player from stealing everything), allowing both players to enjoy the game equally. But multiplayer extends beyond that, as now, everything you do -- even if it's a solo area -- allows the other player to interact in some way. Instead of the one-player puzzle boxes from Giants, co-op partners now have to solve a special multiplayer brain teaser. If there is an area that only accommodates one player, the other is given a power-up or special attack to unleash at their leisure to assist. The enhanced co-op is going to come in handy when you're tackling the most amount of content yet in a Skylanders game. In addition to the fairly hefty campaign, there are more collectibles than ever to find, tons of secrets, and a large amount of bonus missions. The Arena also returns, and it has a staggering amount of gametypes. Thankfully there's a bit of variety this time around, that ranges from PVP, to co-op, to a mix of the two (which is my personal favorite). Like Giants, you earn money and experience in the arena, encouraging everyone to at least try it. You can also raise your "Portal Master Rank" in addition to your Skylanders' actual levels to unlock more items, so you're in for a long ride if you want to get everything -- and it doesn't feel like a grind, because it's fun throughout. Swap Force also benefits from the fact that every past toy is compatible with the third generation. So at this point, you can pick up the previous two games on the cheap, and use pretty much every toy in the current game somewhere down the line. As always, the toy's abilities, appearance, and statistics are still kept in the figure itself -- so you can bring your collection to a friend's house, or even switch console generations without any issues strictly in terms of your character progress. If you were thinking that this was going to be an Activision cash grab, think again. So much heart and soul is consistently poured into the Skylanders franchise time and time again, and Swap Force is no exception. In fact, it's the best one yet.
Skylanders: Swap Force photo
The Skyland of Doctor Moreau
Skylanders has had a bit of an odd history. Initially, it launched under the auspices of the Spyro name, and made a very small splash in the market -- so small, that barely anyone knew what it was. Fast forward to six months ...


There really needs to be a Skylanders cartoon already

It's just so cute!
Sep 25
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
The entire Skylanders series appeals to me in a lot of ways, most of all how it reminds me of cartoons I used to watch as a kid. This latest trailer for SWAP Force really shows off what I mean by that, and really makes me wi...


Let's take a look at the non-swappable new Skylanders

Four new characters
Aug 22
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
Okay first of all the creature in the header here looks like something from a nightmare. Just, so creepy. Well whatever it is, it's one of four new Skylanders playable in SWAP Force. Two of them are also just normal Skylander...

Activision bringing Destiny, Ghosts, more to gamescom

Plus Skylanders SWAP Force and Angry Birds
Aug 17
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
Activision will be at gamescom and are planning to wave their giant wads of money around as they will have the biggest ever demo-theater ever built in gamescom history for Destiny. It comes in at 72ft in length, 43ft wide, a...

Skylanders Swap Force is surprisingly more fun than evil

Jul 29 // Steven Hansen
Skylanders: Swap Force (PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360 [previewed], Xbox One, Wii U, Wii, 3DS)Developer: Vicarious Visions (PS3, PS4, 360, One, Wii U) / n-Space (3DS)/ Beenox (Wii)Publisher: ActivisionRelease: October 13, 2013 After last year’s Skylanders: Giants, which featured bigger monsters, the toys needed a new gimmick. This time, it’s swapability. Over a dozen of the new characters are Swap Force characters, meaning they can be vivisected at the waist (they’re held fast with magnets) and you can change characters’ top and bottom, mixing and matching as you see fit. It’s basically sanctioned unholy fusion of separate action figures. Kids these days have it so easy. Each Skylanders toy has its set of stats tied to it and each Swap Force character halve lays claim to independent statistics, which means you’re not tied to the entire character if, say, you wanted to keep a quick and speedy base but wanted to easily switch between melee and ranged attacks. Or something, I guess. I think it’s more personal preference than anything, because the game isn’t that deep. There is a Nightmare Mode you can gain access to, so maybe being savvy with character abilities and strategies might be a thing worth considering down the line, but everything I got the swappurtunity to go hands-on with was fairly straight forward mashing on monsters, which gets back to my original point: it’s solid mashing on monsters. I get the appeal now. I don’t exactly like the appeal, because there’s something inherently slimy and manipulative about the whole children’s toys market wherein kids are trained to desire all the baubles, but I get it. Had I disposable income and a child, Skylanders would be a no stress way to introduce said stupid human child to videogames in a lax environment. The child would get colorful visual stimuli mildly reminiscent of Ratchet and Clank, silly toys that children are apt to collect and enjoy, and pretty chill monster mashing combat. It’s not to say I wouldn’t get anything from it, either. Skylanders, at least of the Swap Force ilk. are generally named with lovely puns (and permutations thereof when they get swapped) that I enjoy terribly. Invader Zim’s voice actor also voices the main villain, and the writing in general pulled a few chuckles out of me. You can also see some semblance of heart and fun in Swap Force. Jumping has finally been added to the game and while it’s not a core tenet, it’s fun, as we learned so many years ago playing all those platformers. Plus, the jump animations are all kind of great. There’s a snake Swap Force character, Rattle Shake, who is basically Crocodile Dundee with Antnio Banderas’ voice, which is hilarious in and of itself. His jump features a springy sound effect as his tail coils up and propels him upward. I enjoyed it, anyway. The robot legs also bring a cool backflip jump into play. All existing Skylanders characters have been retrofitted with new jumping animations as well. Also, the Crocodile Dundee snake character? His gun is a smaller snake. I hate copping out and suggesting Sklyanders: Swap Force for kids. First, because I don’t know a modicum about child rearing. I’d probably throw s book at them and make them entertain themselves. Or take them to the park to play sports in the hopes of vicariously living through their organized athletic success after my own failures and blown out knees. Yeah, what of it? Don’t tell me how to raise my own gosh darn hypothetical children. The other reason is that I don’t see why those ungrateful little twerps can’t just play Super Mario World like I did; why they have to have something pared down and spoon fed to them. My SNES is literally sitting in my entertainment center right now. Still, if you can abide by the bollocks that comes along with children’s toys (and potential physical pay walls locking you out of side content that you need certain characters or character types for), I can see how Skylanders: Swap Force might be appealing. I’m still leery of the whole charade for more ideological reasons, but it’s a solidly fun escapade with some character to it. And Invader Zim. And a Crocodile Dundee rattle snake with a snake gun.
Skylanders Swap Force photo
Snakes shooting snake guns
Activision’s Skylanders franchise has always smelled of a money grab to me. Copperish, like the smell of old pennies scrounged up by hard-working parents so little Linda Anne can have all the newest and coolest Skylande...


Over 100 million Skylanders toys have been sold so far

'The key to longterm success is breakthrough innovation.'
Feb 06
// Keith Swiader
Activision's Skylanders franchise surpassed $500 million in total revenue, with over 100 million toys sold throughout the U.S., the company announced at their Toy Fair 2013 press conference.  The franchise reached this m...
Skylanders: Swap Force photo
Skylanders: Swap Force

Here's what Skylanders: Swap Force looks like in action

Mix and match toys to create new figures
Feb 05
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
The next Skylanders game was revealed early in the morning today and it's going to let you swap different toy parts to make new heroes. Yes, you get to break the toys in half, but on purpose! Skylanders: Swap Force has a pre...

Review: Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure

Oct 17 // Jim Sterling
Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure (3DS [reviewed], PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [reviewed], Wii)Developer: Toys For Bob (Wii), XPEC Entertainment (PC, PS3, Xbox 360), Vicarious Visions (3DS)Publisher: ActivisionReleased: October 16, 2011 MSRP: $69.99 (Starter Pack), $19.99 (toy-three packs), $7.99 (single toys) Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure is a game that requires a series of real-life toys in order to work. The narrative conceit is that the titular "Skylanders" are frozen in our world and are brought to life when placed upon the "Portal of Power." Once in place, the Skylander reanimates within the provided game's world, where they must fight an army of fantastical creatures and stop the machinations of the evil Kaos, a bald-headed sorcerer who is basically Invader Zim.  Each toy features a nicely detailed creature that sits on top of a green plastic base, and this base is where the toy's unique information is stored. Once you plug the Portal of Power into your console via the included USB cord, all you have to do is place a desired Skylander on top of it. The Portal will read the information stored in its base and use it to create a playable character within the videogame. Furthermore, each toy is capable of saving its own data, allowing it to remember its current level, experience points, collected money and even whatever stat-boosting hat it's currently wearing.  Changing characters is as simple as taking one Skylander off the Portal and replacing it with a new one. The game will pause whenever a toy is removed and instantly resume whenever a fresh one is scanned. This is a near-seamless transition punctuated only by each character's announcing itself before the game recommences. While the vast majority of toys works absolutely perfectly, there are a few temperamental figures. One of my characters can only be recognized by the game if it's placed on the right-hand side of the Portal, while another randomly drops from the game and needs repositioning. Most of them work just fine, but beware that a couple of figures can give the player trouble.  The gimmick is simple but clever. It's got that spark of originality that could make it a hit, but all this would be for naught if the game itself was terrible. To my great and welcome surprise, Skylanders is not a terrible game. In fact, when viewed in the context of a title predominantly aimed at children, it is of remarkably high quality. It's not exactly challenging, nor is it the deepest experience, but it's actually quite fun, even for an adult.  Skylanders resembles a traditional hack n' slash dungeon crawler in many ways. Every character starts with two main attacks (and can earn a third special ability later), both of which activate with simple button-mashing commands. Levels are filled with enemy creatures and straightforward puzzles, as well as optional areas full of loot that can be spent in the hubworld to unlock new abilities that save directly to the toy. In addition to general loot, there are hidden Soul Gems that unlock ultimate powers for each Skylander, hats that can be equipped to boost stats, and other secret treasures that lay hidden for no real reward other than completion.  Being aimed primarily at youngsters, it's certainly not a difficult game that will stump the hardcore collective. Health drops are plentiful, and many tough opponents can be beaten through attrition simply by having enough toys to replace any that get knocked out. Still, there are a few later levels that can take a huge toll, and the game takes a "Kirby" approach to challenge, where simply clearing a stage is secondary to finding hidden items and crossing off various challenges on the checklist. It's accessible for kids, but those looking for something a bit meatier can take on optional goals.  The swapping of characters is encouraged in areas where select elements gain extra strength. Every Skylander belongs to either the Magic, Tech, Life, Earth, Fire or Undead elements, and if their element prevails in a certain area, they'll be more effective in combat. Furthermore, a series of gates scattered around the world can only be unlocked using specific elemental types. Having one Skylander of each element is crucial to unlocking all areas and gaining new hats or Soul Gems, providing the required hook for selling new toys. It's worth noting that the game can be beaten entirely using the three toys provided in the Starter Pack. Exploiting elemental strengths of unlock element gates are purely optional extras -- worth unlocking if you really want to get absorbed in the game, but not needed to see the ending. In addition to the main quest, players can also unlock challenge areas, some which are surprisingly tough. Every Skylander collected unlocks a new challenge map, which bestows permanent stat boosts as completion rewards. Many of them are easy enough to beat, but a few will shock you with just how unreasonable they can be. The extra challenges add some longevity to the game, but what I feel is really missing is some sort of randomized mode. While there's plenty of gameplay, there's certainly not enough content to support over thirty characters. Having a more random, open-ended, or "free" mode would provide more stimulating gaming while grinding characters. That said, some upcoming toys contain all-new stages in their bases, so opportunities for added gaming will be out there. You can even make Skylanders battle each other if you have a friend and a spare controller.  Despite its uncomplicated nature, Skylanders is a fun little game. Upgrading the Skylanders themselves is insidiously addictive, as picking a table of favorite characters and getting them up to level ten can be quite compelling. They even have skill paths, allowing you to choose which of your Skylander's abilities get to be the dominant one. As far as shallow games goes, this sits at the deepest end.  The truly impressive thing about Skylanders is how unique each character actually is. I was able to try sixteen of the game's 30 characters, and aside from the recolored "Dark" Spyro, every character has its own unique look, animations, attacks, and upgrades. While there are similar body types, these characters aren't clones of each other. It would have been very easy for Toys For Bob to limit the variation between each Skylander, but the fact that every single one plays differently is commendable.  The game is solid fun but not without its drawbacks. There is a spectrum of melee and ranged abilities, and each type has its limitations. Melee attacks leave characters open to damage, while the inability to strafe and target can make ranged combat frustrating. In the case of characters who have both close-quarters and projectile-based abilities, this isn't so much of an issue, as their flexibility compensates for the flaws. However, some characters are almost exclusively melee- or ranged-based, and without the other type of attack to offset their drawbacks, they can be noticeably less useful in combat.  Furthermore, the game could have done with a little more variety in the gameplay itself. Levels grow repetitive as the same puzzles and similar boss fights crop up, and while there are a number of enemies that require specific tactics to beat, most of them go down with attack button spamming. Played in shorter bouts, this isn't so much of an issue, but it doesn't work well for extended periods of playtime. Oh, and Toys For Bob would have done well not to namedrop Spyro, since this most certainly isn't a Spyro game. It's great that he's an included character, but cynically pretending the game is themed around him seems to serve no purpose, as Spyro has zero impact on the game's story. I don't think the target market even cares or knows enough about him for his name to be a sales draw. I think the misleading title was a poor idea that only seems to brew up resentment among actual Spyro fans (yes, they exist). Simply calling it Skylanders would have been a lot cleaner and true to what the experience is about. With such a big gimmick in place, nothing would have stopped Toys For Bob from lazily throwing together a terrible game, but genuine care and love appears to have been poured into the project. Every Skylander feels unique, the story is lightheartedly entertaining, and above all, the game is fun to play. I say that shamelessly as an adult, as well. It even looks quite good, with a fantastic art direction that draws me in and a cute aesthetic reminiscent of all those toys from the nineties.  Another unique aspect of the game is the cross-platform functionality of the toys themselves. Once you have the toys, they will work on any platform, and the Portal can even be plugged into a PC so that the toys may interact with the Skylanders website. Those who grow to love the game enough might want to check out the 3DS version as well, which contains alternative gameplay and will allow you to take your characters out on the road and its own wireless Portal that beams your toy's information to the console. The Portal can be safely switched off, and the characters will remain in the game, allowing you to play with them anywhere. To save progress to the toys, players simply scan them a second time, updating their stats with any new experience learned from the game. The 3DS version is more of a platformer game than a hack n' slash one. Unlike the console versions, the 3DS variant allows characters to jump and dash and has players collecting special items to clear a stage before a timer runs out, lest the villainous Hektor catch them. It's a more challenging game than its bigger brothers, and provides a nice little complement to the main entry while really hammering home the cross-platform nature of the whole idea.  With Skylanders, a heartfelt effort was made to create a quality product rather than a piece of cheap garbage designed purely to sucker in the pre-teens. While there are obviously calculating marketing brains pulling all the strings, the end result is good enough for that to not quite be so evident while the game is in motion. A solid title was married to a very clever concept, and the result is something worthy of praise.  If you're a parent looking for a Christmas gift, or if you're just a big kid who wants to play with some silly (and well designed) toys, then Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure comes wholly recommended. It's not the most complex game on the market, but the innovative gadgetry and authentic thoughtfulness on the part of the developer stands out in a market so used to churning out the same old crap. Whether getting it for your children or pretending to get it for your children, Skylanders is a game that has a special something to it, and it's well worth checking out.

Growing up in the nineties, I gained a certain affinity for contrived plastic gimmicks designed to be collected by compulsive children. The likes of Mini Boglins, Monster in My Pocket, and GoGo's Crazy Bones made up a huge pa...

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